Cipriani kicks Wasps to victory
February 22, 2009
Wasps skipper Serge Betsen is crowded by Northampton's Neil Best
© Getty Images
Wasps picked up a 9-5 Guinness Premiership victory over Northampton at Adams Park thanks to three penalties from Danny Cipriani.
Cipriani, hopeful of a recall to Martin Johnson's England side, was eclipsed by Northampton's exciting young England hopeful Ben Foden however, who scored the only try of the match.
Foden, left out by Johnson for last weekend's defeat by Wales after making his England debut as a replacement in the previous week's Twickenham victory over Italy, took a pass from fly-half Stephen Myler to burst over in the left corner in the 55th minute.
Myler had an off day with the boot, missing the conversion and three penalty attempts, and it cost Saints the chance of their first away Premiership victory of the season in a match they dominated for long periods.
Cipriani kicked Wasps into an early 6-0 lead with penalties in the fifth and 10th minutes and just failed to land another from inside his own half as both sides fell foul of referee Rob Debney. The game saw a stream of penalties concede at its rucks and scrums and was an error-strewn affair from the fifth minute front-row flare-up which handed Cipriani his opening penalty.
Northampton had the better of the opening half after Wasps' former French international star Serge Betsen threatened with a powerful run down the middle but lacked the clinical finishing to turn their territorial advantage into points. Heavyweight prop Soane Tonga'uiha burst through the Wasps defence but the attack came to nothing after centre John Clarke knocked on.
Wasps stifled the next scoring chance by bundling Foden into touch near the right corner flag. An error by Cipriani, whose drop-out following Myler's second penalty miss flew straight into touch, handed Northampton the scrum which proved the launch pad for another attacking wave. Left-wing Bruce Reihana and number eight Roger Wilson both made inroads before the Northampton pack lost possession as they attempted to drive over the Wasps try line.
Then a fumble by Clarke's midfield partner James Downey - on the receiving end of an earlier big hit by his former Saints team-mate Mark Robinson - ended another promising move before Myler put his third penalty attempt wide on the stroke of half-time.
Northampton continued to be the more enterprising side at the start of the second half, with Myler's kick finding right wing Paul Diggin who was well tackled by the hard-working Robinson. There was more tension between the front rows when Northampton twice spurned penalty opportunities in favour of close-range scrums.
Despite the efforts of England's second-choice hooker Dylan Hartley and winger Paul Diggin, who got within a couple of yards of the line, the well-drilled Wasps defence repelled the attacks. The Saints persevered and finally made the breakthrough when Myler, having a good all-round game despite his place-kicking woes, released Foden on a run which breached the Wasps back line as he crossed in the left corner. Myler again missed the chance to edge the visitors ahead as his conversion attempt floated wide.
Saints were denied a second try six minutes later when they were brought back for a forward pass after Reihana sent Clarke over down the left touchline. Cipriani's third penalty, from just inside the opposition half, put Wasps 9-5 ahead in the 65th minute before he spurned two further chances as Northampton's effort finally ran out of steam.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was incensed after the officials missed what he saw as a blatant tug on Foden's shirt as he chased a kick through to the Wasps line.
"Quite clearly he was going to win that chase," he said. "He was flying and he got held back. You would have thought that maybe one of the three officials would have seen it. There were a number of calls we think we were very unfortunate not to get and those close calls lose you games.
"Sometimes you hold your hands up and say you were well beaten but today was a match we should have won. We had a number of opportunities and those little 50-50s cost you matches. We're still after our elusive away win but it will come. I've no doubts we've got a good enough side to win away from home."
Myler's missed kicks cost the Saints, but Mallinder believs that they did enough to win even without the missed opportunities at goal.
"He's very disappointed in himself because he knows if he had kicked those goals we would have won the game but we created enough opportunities and dominated enough to have won it anyway."
Wasps boss Ian McGeechan was heartened by the grit of his side following a difficult week in which it was announced that England trio Riki Flutey, James Haskell and Tom Palmer would be leaving the club to take up lucrative deals in France.
"There was a lot of character shown there today to graft that win," he said. "It was a very physical battle at the breakdown and we had to do a lot of defending which we did well. I was very pleased with the way we finished.
"All we can do is keep winning and we've done that again. There will be a lot of pressure games for everybody. We're within striking distance but only if we keep winning."
Wasps: Mark Van Gisbergen, Chris Bishay, Dominic Waldouck, Josh Lewsey, Tom Voyce, Danny Cipriani, Mark Robinson, Tim Payne, Rob Webber, Pat Barnard, Simon Shaw, George Skivington, Dan Leo, Serge Betsen (capt), John Hart
Replacements: Joe Ward, Tom French, Richard Birkett, Hugo Ellis, Eoin Reddan, Dave Walder, Rob Hoadley
Northampton: Ben Foden, Paul Diggin, Jon Clarke, James Downey. Bruce Reihana (capt), Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson, Soane Tonga'uiha, Dylan Hartley, Euan Murray, Courtney Lawes, Juandre Kruger, Neil Best, Scott Gray, Roger Wilson
Replacements: Brett Sharman, Barry Stewart, Tom Smith, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Mark Easter, Barry Everitt, Chris Mayor